MADISON -- After narrowly escaping last season's matchup with UW-Green Bay with a 69-66 victory, the Badgers took on an upset-minded Phoenix team at the Kohl Center Wednesday night. The Badgers were able to secure a much more convincing victory this time around, taking care of business with an 84-60 win.
Nigel Hayes came into the game leading the Big Ten in rebounding, averaging 11.5 per game, but showed off more than his ability to clean the glass in the victory. The sophomore forward scored 25 points and grabbed down 11 rebounds. Frank Kaminsky followed with 20 points and 15 rebounds.
"Hayes is really good. He’s improved," said UWGB coach Brian Wardle, "He’s a big, strong mismatch because he’s kind of an inside-out forward that can do a lot of things. He hurt us."
"They were playing off," Hayes said. "They weren’t respecting the shot, and rightfully so going off of last year. I take what the defense gives me and got some jump shots and got some layups."
Coming into the game, the Badgers' biggest worry was how to stop Keifer Sykes, who had scored 32 in last year’s game. He wasted no time making an impact, scoring 14 of his team's 29 points in the first half. While UWGB kept it close for a long duration of the first half, even taking an 18-17 lead with 9:37 remaining, the Badgers never looked back and jumped out to a 38-29 lead at halftime. UWGB had four players with three fouls before the first-half buzzer sounded.
"Have you seen anybody with that kind of blur off a dribble?" UW coach Bo Ryan added. "I thought we did a much better job of recognizing a defensive lapse, weakness, flaw, and doing a better job of covering it up."
The Badgers started the second half on an 11-3 run, led by Sam Dekker scoring seven of those 11 points. The Badgers found a way to shut down Sykes in the second half, holding him to only six points in the period. The Badgers also started to find their rhythm offensively scoring 36 points in the paint against the Phoenix.
"We just came out in the second half, I think missed a few shots at the rim and then boom," Wardle said. "[We] made a few mistakes, they made a few threes and the next thing you know you’re down double-digits."
The Badgers' starting five was rounded out by Dekker, who had 19 points; Josh Gasser with seven points and Traevon Jackson with four points. Duje Dukan had five points and six rebounds off the bench in his first action of the season. Vitto Brown and Zak Showalter each tallied two points.